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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 10:16 GMT
Net cheats 'devaluing coursework'
Exam room
Teachers have called for a return to more exam-based courses
Coursework favours middle class children and is vulnerable to cheating using the internet, research suggests.

A survey of teachers found they believed coursework, which is worth up to two thirds of the marks in some GCSEs, penalised working class boys.

Many of the 1,707 National Union of Teachers members asked said it was increasingly difficult to tell if the work had been downloaded from the net.

Three out of five said extended projects should still contribute to GCSEs, AS and A-levels.

NUT head of education John Bangs said: "The mixture of good practice templates on the web combined with enormous pressures to enhance schools' positions in league tables is draining the creative value of coursework."

He said the survey showed it was time for a "radical rethink" of coursework in the sixth form and called on former chief schools inspector Mike Tomlinson, who is conducting a government review of GCSEs and A-Levels in England, to "ask himself how he can restore" its value.

Coursework is so open to abuse
NUT member

"It has lost its shine," Mr Bangs added.

"Instead of encouraging pupils to take risks in their work it is in danger of becoming a bureaucratised part of the examination process," he said.

Coursework creates too much work for teachers, according to 62% of those surveyed.

While 43% feel it imposes too many demands on students.

They particularly dislike having to "chase" pupils for overdue work.

And some want to be paid extra to mark it.

Parent-teacher support

One teacher said: "Coursework is often an indication of the level of support of the parents.

"Interested parents go out of their way to... work with their child and teachers to ensure completion.

"Students with disinterested parents or parents who do not know how to work the system frequently suffer because they do not have the relevant parent-teacher support."

Another teacher said: "Coursework is so open to abuse.

Practical subjects

"Help is given by parents, siblings, peers, private tutors et al."

Coursework is most appropriate for practical subjects, including design and technology, but least helpful for mathematics and foreign languages, according to the poll.

And 99 out of every 100 teachers believe the amount in each subject should be limited.

Many feel the one-year AS-level courses do not allow time for coursework.

Research skills

But 61% want to maintain extended projects, with 64% in favour of keeping coursework in A-levels, and 73% for GCSEs.

One teacher said coursework tested "the development of analytical thought, research skills and presenting an argument based on evidence" and could "substantially help less academic pupils".

"To achieve a high grade a child will have coped well with time management, practical sessions and presentation skills in specific areas of expertise.

"I do not think this can be adequately achieved in an examination zone."

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16 Jul 03  |  Education

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